New Zealanders must be told what the return on investment will be from the $53 million cost of exhibiting at a world expo in Dubai, NZ First leader Winston Peters says.

The high cost of being at the 2020 World Expo has already been slammed by Act leader David Seymour as wasteful "corporate welfare" that will disproportionately benefit politically-connected businesses.

And Peters today also questioned the spending, saying past experience showed the cost could increase beyond $53m. However, he did not oppose the project outright.

"We are talking about a huge sum of money and there are plenty of causes that money could have gone towards," Peters said.

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"It far exceeds the Government's budget for tourist infrastructure in long-suffering regional New Zealand...New Zealand First is not necessarily opposed but wants to see a whole lot more than thus far released to justify this level of expenditure."

International Expos trace their origins back to the Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace, London in 1851. Countries show off their goods and services, usually in distinctive and elaborate pavilions designed to stand out from others.

When Dubai bid for Expo 2020, its rulers said they would spend more than $10 billion on a 2sq km site that will contain three thematic areas: opportunity, sustainability and mobility.
New Zealand has been invited to participate in the sustainability precinct.

Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges made the announcement in Dubai on Sunday, and said the United Arab Emirates - which Dubai is a part of - had been one of the fastest growing markets of the past decade and the New Zealand display would be the first at an international Expo for 10 years.

New Zealand budgeted $30m for the 2010 Expo in Shanghai.

While trade runs heavily in US favour, Bridges said the New Zealand pavilion would allow Kiwi businesses to highlight their innovative products and services and open doors to new export markets.

New Zealand is close to completing a free trade agreement with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.